A week to go to the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games – it seems like it was yesterday I was writing about an inspirational visit from 9-times Paralympic Gold Medallist Chris Holmes with the Games still being nearly a year off.
With an extraordinary Olympic Games still fresh in the memory, I’m looking forward to some more fantastic performances from all the Paralympic athletes – keeping a particular eye out for Team GB and Team NL of course!
Britain is recognised as the birthplace of the Paralympic movement and we are keen to make the most of the opportunities to use the Games in promoting international action to ensure equality of rights for disabled people. Changing attitudes and behaviour towards disabled people is a challenge in many parts of the world.
But the amazing achievements of Paralympic athletes can have a significant impact and with London 2012 we have an opportunity to make a change for the better.
In the days since the Olympic Games’ closing ceremony I’ve lost count of the number of Dutch people who have congratulated me on the success on London 2012. When I met Prime Minister Rutte, Dutch Olympic gold medallists and Olympic Committee members last week at a ceremony in The Hague, they were full of praise for the organisation, facilities and spectators. And they all singled out the amazing impact of the 70,000 volunteers who made the Games such a wonderful experience for fans and athletes alike.
I saw that for myself when my family and I visited the Olympic Park to watch the handball in the “Copper Box”. It was easy to get swept along in the tide of enthusiasm – 5 minutes in the Park and we were all in the Olympic spirit!
I have no doubt that that spirit will continue through the Paralympics. Indeed, having watched Paralympic swimming here in The Netherlands, I can personally attest to the moving and inspiring nature of Paralympic sport. Here at the Embassy we will be cheering on Paralympians who have helped us promoting the Games, including Dutch wheelchair tennis player Robin Ammerlaan and Lebanese handbiker Edward Maalouf .
As the Dutch say “veel succes” to them and to all the competitors.